Happy birthday, Covid1001!*

I don’t celebrate the pandemic—I am celebrating language access.

On March 14, 2020, Hungary’s first Covid-related lockdown had begun. Less than two weeks later, a group of medical translators decided to combat misinformation by translating reputable articles. They decided to vet the articles before translating and publishing them. They named themselves Covid1001.

One of these was Thomas Pueyo’s iconic “The Hammer and the Dance”.

I got involved with this group as a minor character. When you, as group of translators, decide to translate a lot of articles and publish them on the web, you need organization and you need technology. My company happens to be a software maker for the translation industry, so donating cloud-based translation technology came naturally. (In all fairness, I didn’t even start this within the company—the credit goes to two other colleagues who called our attention to the Covid1001 group.) Another colleague/friend took up the task of managing projects in the technology we offered, and he has also been curating the website where the translations are published.

Most Hungarians do not read English—and even fewer of them are in the habit of going after reputable medical reports and information articles. An even smaller number are actually doctors and translators at the same time, but this last group has a superpower: they can make these texts—and the information in them—accessible to those who don’t read English, or else don’t look up medical articles.

I don’t know how widely read this website is—but the sheer fact that there is a reliable source to go to, say, to fact-check claims that get published on social media, is priceless. I know it is too early to tell what the impact of this group has been. I also know that I don’t share their posts as frequently as I should.

Last Friday, there was a Zoom party to celebrate the first anniversary of this group. That the pandemic is still with us and that Covid1001 still has a reason to exist, is not something to celebrate. But that a group of people came together and created a lively community dedicated to the truth and to the work against misinformation, and are still together after one year—that is one of the best things that happened in our profession in the last 12 months.

I did not go to the Zoom party because I was tired and I am also suffering from what some of my learned friends call the Zoom fatigue—but this did not mean I wanted to shun this group. On the contrary: they deserve every praise.

There is a book called Found in Translation, written by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche, that tells stories of how translation—language access—works for the benefit of humanity. This benefit is one of the main reason I got involved—and remain involved—with the industry. Covid1001 is one such story, even if it came a few years too late to be included in Nataly’s and Josts’ book.

Check out the site: https://www.covid1001.hu/. I know it’s in Hungarian, but I also want you to have an idea of what the group does. Also, check out the list of people involved with the project: https://www.covid1001.hu/rolunk/ (you may need to scroll down). I did not want to highlight one name or another, because everyone on this list is a dedicated professional who deserves recognition. So—Happy birthday, Covid1001! And here’s to all other groups and initiatives that make Covid information accessible all over the world.

* The featured image of this post is a plant that, in a distance, looks like a virus. I didn’t want to use the Covid1001 theme graphic for fear of copyright infringement.

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